Here is the second posting of our Hiroshi Watanabe interview. Stay tuned for the CEG and Hiroshi Watanabe webcast where the artist will be asked questions about various pieces in the show and the background behind them. Part 1 of the interview can be found here.
Jen Leutner: When I view the images from the Findings series, they seem as if they could have been taken anywhere at anytime, making them feel like a dream or a memory—it isn’t until after I read the titles that I know where they were taken. How did you decide on the places you chose in the Findings series and what interested you most about them?
Hiroshi Watanabe: I am merely going to places that intrigue me—places that I have burning questions [about]. Although I have certain images of places I am going to, I always find something that I did not expect and that surprises me. Those are the things I photograph. So, it could be anything. I look without prejudice and I find poetry in many things and in many places. I simply photograph them. In that sense, I am not an artist as I don’t “create” them. I “find” them. I think what happens in the world is much more amazing goes beyond my imaginations.
JL: For me, “all three series present a freedom from reality, a gap between the conscious and unconscious, and a notion that we are being given a behind-the-scenes glimpse that suggests a hidden truth.” What do you hope viewers take away with them when viewing your work in the show?
HW: Yes, there is no better way of saying that.
JL: When were you first interested in photography?
HW: I went to a high school in Japan that is well known for sending students to good universities. I lived in the dormitory attached to the school, and all day I had to study. By the time I graduated the high school, I was sick of studying. So, I told my parents that I wanted to major in photography in the hopes for easy college life. I had no prior interest, nor experience. It just seemed easy and fun. That is how I started photography. Luckily, I got hooked by it and became serious later.
JL: What was your first camera?
HW: My father bought me a Minolta TTL camera after I graduated high school, and that was my own first camera. Later, I found out that the Nikon camera was the one everyone had and I was not happy about not having a Nikon (I bought one later). Thinking back, of course, it did not matter what camera I used.
JL: Who and what has influenced your work, i.e. artists, ideas, events, etc.?
HW: I don’t particularly look for ideas for photographs. I especially don’t think about if subjects or projects are appealing to other people. I simply live a life and keep my eyes open for something that interests me. Often, I get intrigued by something that I see in books, movies, TV, newspaper, magazines, etc. When I have that burning curiously, I decide to go and see them and photograph them. I love to see things I am foreign to. Photography is such a good excuse to be nosy–walk around and peek in someone’s house and ask questions to strangers.
In terms of photographers who influenced me, I think of photographers such as Walker Evans, August Sander, Robert Frank, Richard Avedon, and Diane Arbus. They are all photographers who captured the people and cultures of the times straightly and honestly. They are also makers of strong visuals.